The Regional Wines tasting room was graced with an educational wine tasting tour de force last Tuesday, thanks to the unassuming Matt Stafford from Craggy range, who showed off 12 of his lively wines including, not one, but two vintages of his three prestige wines - Le Sol , Aroha and Sophia.
For much of the tasting, the room sat in an awe struck stupor as Matt divulged technical details of vintage responsive winemaking that had us all keen to try our hand at crafting a wine portfolio by the end. When the barrage of questions did come, they were similarly inspired - Wellington showing off it’s wine knowledge.
Matt’s two Chardonnays primed our palates and prepped our sensors for the effects of oak and site warmth, coming from the cool coastal Te Awanga and the warmer inland Gimblett Gravels. As should be, the wines are made to reflect their terroir - the Kidnappers with a nod to Chablis, its saline minerality unencumbered by oak - and the riper Gimblett fruit balanced by more time on oak.
These wines opened the way for a canny comparison of vintage, with the 2015 and 2016 Aroha - Matt’s prestige Pinot from Te Muna Road in Martinborough. Matt expressed his excitement at the 2016, which he considered to have great potential, and, coming from a warmer vintage, this wine certainly offered masses of structure and some excellent fruit concentration. That said, the 2015, from a cooler, more challenging vintage, was a luminescent wine, with electrifying acidity and a brightness of flavour seldom seen.
A trio of Syrahs followed, offering examples of just how good Hawke’s Bay Syrah can be when done well, and proof that Craggy’s expansion from 4.9 to 22 hectares of Syrah under vine was a sound investment. Rich, dark fruits, licorice, pepper and violets oozed from our glasses and once again the ‘16 and ‘15 Le Sols provided an intriguing comparison. The ‘16, big round and enticing, and the ‘15 more aggressive, dark and broody like a purple tinged sky on the verge of a thunderstorm perhaps.
And then without delay it was into the Bordeaux varietals, with the 100% Gimblett Gravels Merlot paving the way for flavours of cassis and plums, and offering some fabulous varietal typicity before things got complex with Matt’s Bordeaux blends - the 2015 Te Kahu and the 2016 and ‘13 Sophia. All three are Merlot predominant, with varying proportions of Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc and either Malbec or Petit Verdot in small quantities, and offer that sumptuous fruit driven complexity that only blends seem to achieve.
In his formative years Matt worked with Jean Luc Thunevin from Château Valandraud in Saint-Émilion, Dominique Lafon in Burgundy and a number of superstar Rhône winemakers. These are wine regions where vine age and the cultural wine history entwined in the terroir make comparison with New Zealand hard, but with winemakers like Matt, and the ever increasing age of vines he has to work with, this comparison is becoming more and more favourable.
All these wines are available from Regional Wines